So this game is pretty silly, but surprisingly fun? It is ideally played with 6-8 people, and definitely has a lot of room for expansion or adaptation.
Objective: Understand how data is transmitted through that network of networks to your computer via packet switching and understand the components of the HTTP header.
Explain how we’re going to do a simplified demonstration of how all those little things travel to a computer. Show students one of the “packet envelopes”. These represent different pieces of information and, for our purposes, just indicate where the packet needs to go. (Don’t tell them there are puzzle pieces in the envelopes!)
On one wall in the room, make some space to hang name tags for all participants.
Reminder: the packets should be placed label down on one table on one side of the room.
Students have to take envelopes off the table one at a time, read the envelope’s label to figure out which table it needs to go to on the other side of the room. (20-30 minutes)
When the student delivers the envelope, they have to grab a post-it note from the table and bring that post-it back to the packet table. The game facilitator adds that post-it to the wall underneath that student’s name. The player who collects the most post-its (i.e., moves the most packets) wins the game.
Depending on the number of students you have, there can be 3 dedicated people at the tables receiving the puzzle pieces assembling in real time, or the assembly can happen after the fact. The nice thing about having real-time puzzle assembly is it means there are two winners, a packet winner and a puzzle winner.
This entire activity is a very, very simplified approximation of packet switching. Explain the concepts behind TCP/IP and why it’s cool to students. (10-15 minutes)
Right now this activity only addresses a single “hop” in the network, maybe the last line of our traceroute from earlier. How could students represent the full complexity of a traceroute? How many more envelopes would they need? Brainstorm expanding the game and making different rules with students. (10-15 minutes)
It’s pretty likely that the rules created for this expanded game would be tedious and really not fun to play. Explain this is why we use computers: because at the end of the day they’re not actually that smart, but they can do a bunch of really tedious things really, really fast.
Optional/maybe a bad idea: It would be theoretically possible to try and incorporate other interesting facets of the HTTP header, like cookies, into these packets. We haven’t tried that yet. But if you have ideas we welcome contributions!
Network Geography 101 Demo Day Presentation Notes